We Shall Endure

We Shall Endure
by Gloria Hsu

I don’t know how to deal with this pain so the pain deals with me.

By overtaking my body in fits of sobbing that come from somewhere deeper than I can reach myself, a hidden place known only to the pain itself. Only pain itself can tolerate it or hold space for it.  Anything else or anyone else would crumble under its weight.

So I let my pain feel my pain for me. I let it absorb my hurt and consume my agony, shielding me from being paralyzed by the grief or being swallowed whole by the sorrow.

It breathes for me, protecting me from suffocation. It somehow keeps my body from being torn in two by the wild clawing from both outside and within myself.

My pain deals with what I cannot, must not, in order for me to go on surviving.  I can only suppress screams and sing silent songs from deep within.

If the sound escaped, glass would shatter and my children would be afraid. My knowing pain holds my body upright and keeps me from collapsing into a formless heap on the ground.  It keeps me awake and somewhat aware of life happening all around me. It forces my lips to smile at what someone says and pushes me to care about someone else’s pain. But I can’t reside there, where my pain might surface unannounced.

Pain gives me the strength to turn the conversation away from myself so that I don’t unravel into a million threads or give away too much of my heart.

Pain lets me put it onto a shelf and wonder where I left it, giving me a respite from the burning ache and the memories.  Sometimes I look for it, but I can’t find it.  And I wonder…was the pain even real?  Or was it imagined? Because I seem okay now without it.  Until pain itself reminds me that I am not okay-not deeply.  It knows when I need reminding because it knows my body better than I know it myself. And my body looks to my pain to cry out for me or it will break under the pressure.  It will burst open at the cracks with too many wounds to heal all at once.  And where will that leave me?  Bleeding out in too many places for a hundred hands to save me.

Pain knows I need saving and it won’t ever stop fighting to see me and to heal me.

Why didn’t anyone ever tell me that pain would be my friend?

“We draw our strength from the very despair in which we have been forced to live.  We shall endure.”  (Cesar Chavez, “Four Winds”)

 

 

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Gloria Hsu expresses her heart through journaling and songwriting. She loves to share about and listen to stories of God speaking in the every day and struggles of life. A piece she authored was recently published in a Proverbs 31 Ministries devotional book. You will find her drinking orange juice green tea in Taiwan, where she lives with her husband and 4 boys. Their youngest has Down Syndrome and that’s a God-story too. She is the co-founder of Pregnancy Support Center in Taiwan. She is a certified facilitator of Circle of Security Parenting (COSP). She blogs at uncoveringtreasure.com.

New Rhythms

New Rhythms
by Sonia Abraham

Among the bare winter-worn trees, a flock of starlings lifts from their roosting spot. They loom across the sky like a thin black lace veil. They change directions, forming new shapes with every movement. The flock contracts into a heart, then stretches across the sky in a long, sinewy band, then contracts into a tight sphere. This murmuration of starlings, the ebb and flow of shape and form of birds, happens every evening at dusk in the winter here close to this particular spot where I sit captivated. The darkening shadows of the trees, barren of all their leaves, turn their gray, naked branches upward as if offering their applause.

The flock moves back and forth, back and forth across the graying sky. They soar upward, then zoom down, move east, then west, holding each direction for a few seconds before changing. The patterns appear both random and purposeful. It is breathtaking and bewildering. Which bird leads? When a few birds straggle behind, how do they quickly fall back into place? How do they know where to go and what shape they will form? I’m mesmerized by the unexpected beauty of the warp and weft of their formations that stretch and contract into an endless number of designs. Scientists have offered possible reasons for these murmurations, but they still have no definitive answers.

I raise my hand to the sky, wanting to trace my hand along the surface of the flock, skimming each bird’s smooth iridescent feathers as they move left, then right, then back again. This rhythm feels both soothing and surprising, every shape formed differs slightly from the last.

The rhythms of my own life that once felt smooth and predictable were disrupted a few years ago when my marriage ended in a painful, unexpected divorce. I felt the fabric of my life had unraveled. Torn apart never to be put back together again. The straight lines of my life were stretched thin, pulled taut, and twisted. The thin threads at the edge of my soul were frayed. I came undone. I moved back and forth, tracing over the fading lines of that life, craving familiar patterns that formed into new directions, longing for them to conform to familiar shapes, trying to make sense of rhythms that felt unnatural.

My heart murmured questions to God. Why did this happen? Why me? Why now? It was the beginning of a long season of loss upon loss. How much more? These groanings which once went against the fabric of my being to complain to God were an honest examination seeking answers from the One who is Sovereign. Bringing them into the light helped me release the illusion of control I thought I had. They sought answers that God did not reveal. “Be still and know that I am God,” I read repeatedly. And I clung to that thread of truth like a lifeline.

I wanted the rhythms of my life to be predictable, comfortable, soothing. But God called for a change. I had to trust that though I didn’t know the reasons for these changes or even what changes would happen, I had to believe that God was Sovereign over this too.

Minutes later, the starlings are still flying above, in the same rhythms with different shapes and patterns. That I am a spectator to this impromptu performance brings a quiet satisfaction to my soul after years of unexpected changes in my life. God knows why they do this.

The same God that created this flock’s seamless rhythmic movement also knit me in my mother’s womb. He stretched the fabric of my being and coiled it upon itself and pulled me down to the depths. These uncomfortable rhythms called me to be more like Jesus, to have faith in the unknown, to appreciate the unfamiliar, and to accept the unanswered and undesired parts of my life. God didn’t need to tell me or show me how I was made for me to know that I was made in His image for a reason. It is not random nor without reason. Nor are these changes. But I needed to trust that the mystery of His words spoken thousands of years ago still remained true today.

After the frayed ends of that season were discarded, I find that the new rhythms that have emerged in a life I once thought implausible are both surprising and beautiful.

 

 

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After uprooting from the East Coast to Texas and experiencing the heartbreak of a long marriage ending, Sonia Abraham found herself overwhelmed by grief. But she discovered that God grieves endings too. As a medical writer and editor by profession, Sonia crafts words on her blog to encourage others to seek the Lord while grieving the loss of their relationships. Her favorite job is being mother to three teens and Baxter the rescue pup. She’s currently training for her next marathon. Connect with her at www.soniaabraham.net, Facebook and Instagram.

Silent Guardians

Silent Guardians
by Lucy Allen

In the dawn’s gray light of winter,
they stand at the edge of the pond.
Tall and white, I catch the sight of the hardwoods; now bare.
They seem to stretch from heaven to earth,
how the scene implores me to stare.

As I study this picture of dark and light,
just as these silent sentinels stand guarding the pond,
I’m reminded of God’s great love
where angels surround me with divine protection,
that could only come from above.

The day cold and damp, such is my heart…
until I remember that God Himself has encamped His guardians around me.
His lamp shines, so I can see,
He keeps me day to day; protects me on my way
and shows His amazing love for me.

Psalm 91:11:For He shall give His angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways.”

 

 

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Lucy is from North Carolina and is a published author of a devotional book entitled, The Pond.  The Pond was published in 2016 by Christian Faith Publishing and is available at Amazon.com.
Lucy is married to her highschool sweetheart and they have just recently celebrated 45 years of marriage!  They have two children and two grandchildren.  Lucy is active in her church and has held several positions within the church.

Beautiful Death

Beautiful Death
by Bethany Jarmul

Leaves floating, falling, resting, returning to dust
hedgehogs hibernate, monarchs migrate, crickets croak their last song

A bride’s gown blankets rooftops,
lace clings to branches, tickles noses, adorns eyelashes

Stillness grows like icicles, drop by drop
in the silence, much is spoken

Breathing pristine frigid air, remembering the bloody birth
of the spotless one, born to die, again to live

Death as a promise, a cleansing act
of victory, rebirth—nasturtiums springing forth from frozen earth

 

 

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Bethany Jarmul is a writer and work-from-home mom. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Literary Mama, Scribes*MICRO*Fiction, Sky Island Journal, and Allium, A Journal of Poetry & Prose. She grew up in the hills of West Virginia and lives in Pittsburgh, PA with her husband and two kids. Connect with her on Twitter and Instagram.

Shelter and Refuge

Shelter and Refuge
by Vina Mogg

Almost one century ago my home was built on a post and pier foundation
above the sands of the sea.

This tiny wooden cottage fitted together from pieces of tongue and groove ship lap
has weathered many storms, winds, and rain. Like an ark suspended above the waters, it has been a refuge from the elements. It rescued me when the depths of grief and transition and loss were overcoming.

The definition of a cottage is a small simple house.

The original word for cottage in Hebrew is suka: a temporary shelter or a booth made of leaves and branches interwoven.

My father grew up in a nipa hut in the Philippines. Its roof was made of thatched palm leaves woven together.

It was a house built on a foundation of bamboo poles to keep it safe above the ground during rains of monsoon season. Its walls and floor built from bamboo spilt by a rustic knife a bolo.
In Tagalog, the language of the Philippines, the house is called Bahay Kubo, which means cubed house.

Its cubed shape makes it easy to assemble and disassemble. Its four walls provide shelter from storms and rain.

Across the ocean from my father’s nipa hut my shiplap cottage was built a few years after his birth, in 1926.

Almost a century ago materials for the cottage were ferried from the city across the Puget Sound.

Timbers of local trees were split into tongue and groove planks and pieced together to from the outside siding and inside walls .

Logs were used to build its pier foundation hovering above the edge of the shore.
Foundation posts were dug into the sand hold up the house above the waterline.
Its four walls a cube with windows that open up to the Puget Sound and majestic Mt. Rainier.
This cottage was built as a temporary shelter, a summer escape from everyday life.

Two houses. A cottage and a nipa hut.
Two homes across the world.
Two temporary shelters. Sukas built as a refuge from the storms. The storms of life, monsoons and rain.

My father’s house was pieced together from split bamboo and woven leaves. It was the place he sheltered from the ravages that war that left upon his body. It was the place he recovered from the spectres death and pain and loss.

My cottage was pieced together from split wooden planks and shiplap beams. In the shelter of its tour walls I recovered from the sorrow of loss and disease and heartbreak.

These two homes were a refuge for pain and loss.
My father recovered from his escape as a WWII Bataan Death March survivor within the walls of his nipa hut.
I recovered from the grief of losing my mother to the ravages of Alzheimer’s within the shiplap walls of this cottage.

The pieces of my life are gathered from the span of two bodies of water, across the Philippine Sea to the Puget Sound.

God pieced together.
A refuge for us.
From two pieces of lumber that meet in the middle to form a cross.
On those two crossbeams of wood he carried our brokenness.
His brokenness became a shelter for our pain.
He himself became our suka, our temporary shelter. Our tent of bones and flesh that housed the glory and power of God.
The cross is our foundation.

By this action he himself became our dwelling place. We can live and abide fully in his presence because he was broken for us.

The things that break us leave our heart vacant.
We search for a place to hide.
A shelter.

God provides that space.
He longs to be our dwelling place.
A place to run to. To regroup. To reestablish, to nurture our souls.

He longs to be our hiding place
Our tabernacle. Our tent. Our suka.

Our refuge.

In Hebrew one word for refuge is dwelling or refuge

The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms:
Deuteronomy 33:27

His arms are our foundation of safety.
The pillars that will hold us up when we feel the storms of life will knock us down.

These everlasting arms can shoulder our pain and support us in power and strength.

Friend, let Him be your refuge.
Let Him carry you in His everlasting arms when you are
broken, beat down, lonely, tired, discouraged..

He longs to be your shelter.
Once settled in His arms
He can fashion something new from broken pieces.
He restores our souls.

 

 

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Vina Bermudez Mogg is rebuilding life through words, wood, paper and paint in a century old cottage by the Puget Sound. Stories on restoring life and faith through seasons of empty nesting, motherhood, caregiving for Alzheimer’s, and its parallel to restoring a 1926 abode are found on her website, vinabermudezmogg.com.

Places she has been published include The Wonder Years: 40 Women Over 40 on Aging, Faith, Beauty, and Strength, Ruminate Magazine, redbudwritersguild.com, thewritelaunch.com, and mudroomblog.com. Follow her on Instagram @vinabmogg.

Soul-Stirring

Soul-Stirring
by Darcie J. Fuqua

Who made me to live this way?
My heart
outside my chest

tears fall as the violinist finishes her solo.
Envious not of the soul
that does not stir

coarse sand sifts through my toes;
I embrace the warmth.

How do I find focus?
In the blur
One only needs to slow to see His details.

My hand rests on his tiny chest.
It rises and falls.
What treasure I’ve received
because of faith;
one only needs to reach for His garment.

Wisdom flows
I trace the fine lines of a weathered hand.
Why am I wearing the jewels of knowledge?
One only needs to ask Him in order to receive.

Laughter, contagious
around my dinner table.
Why am I blessed to thirst no more?
One should learn to drink of His cup.

Moonlight
bounces off the water
bringing light to my dark.
Who am I to walk guided by the lamp?
If only one would stop chasing shadows.

Who am I?
To fathom the unfathomable.
To believe in the inconceivable.
To hear the inaudible.
To witness the unseen.
To feel what cannot be touched.
To recognize the incomprehensible.

These are the things I do not understand.
Yet, I cannot comprehend
not knowing.
Nor being.
Nor loving.

His existence
undeniably evident
unreasonably obvious
overwhelmingly present.

He Is the One
stirring my soul.

 

 

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Darcie is from the deep south of Alabama, where she currently resides with her husband, two energetic fun-loving boys, and a dog named Charlie. She loves life sinking her toes in the sand, cuddling with her boys, and having great conversations over a table of good food. Having been fully restored from a tsunami of mental health issues, she can fully attest to the power of our Almighty God. She enjoys writing and telling her non-fiction stories that will make you feel more “normal” about yourself on her blog www.leightonlane.com.

The Path Before Us

The Path Before Us
by Ashley Marshall

This path laid out
for each of us
is one that is a gift.
Planned with love
and delicately crafted
by the Creator
who formed all from the beginning.
He knows your past;
He walks with you in your present,
and in His perfection,
lays hands on your future.
We take gentle steps forward
hesitant and questioning,
never knowing if it’s right or
just simply wanting the control.
Letting go is hard.
Unclenching tightly wound fists,
holding onto our ideal,
our perfect plans.
But, our perfect
is not His perfect.
He knows
what we need.
He sees our hearts
and he builds a future
that is pure,
peaceful,
and full of unexplainable joy.
We can choose
to give our trust
to a Savior
who loves us deeply
and is abounding in
everlasting grace.

 

 

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My name is Ashley Marshall and I am a Texas girl through and through. I am a mom to two sweet babies and wife to a crazy supportive husband.  I am currently a high school teacher, writer, and in my free time, I enjoy chasing my children around the house.

Connect with Ashley at SelahSoul and on Instagram: @Selah_soul_yoga.

Winter Grace

Winter Grace
by Abigail Alleman

I drove 1100 miles up the eastern central part of the U.S. My husband travelled in front of me as he chatted with our oldest child. I was keeping peace between the younger two as we caravanned on the interstate roads. So much transpired in a little more than three months.

We were first introduced to a new ministry position working with refugees mid-February of 2021. In just a short month, we decided to move from our ministry to students to this new position of helping refugees resettle in the U.S.

Many changes came upon us. We needed to prepare our very lived-in home in Orlando for sale in a month’s time. After the sale process of our home, we had to look for homes virtually in the Chicago suburbs and choose one to buy. It was a flurry of things I do not love at all.

Now we were on our way to our new home. As we rounded the street towards the small yellow ranch we’d purchased, I felt very unsure. Had we done the right thing? Our new house was about half of the size of our former home. The reality of this much less space than we had grown accustomed to felt like an unsure path as to how we would manage the change.

I also thought about the many shocked faces of each one with whom we shared our big move. Each asked the same question: why would we leave the warm winter of Florida for the many cold months of Illinois? I held unease as I processed this question. Oh, truly, how would we make it through the winter in a smaller, seemingly crowded home?

A day later, I looked into the eyes of a father and son, refugees with a horrific story of running for their lives in their home country. As they labored to carry our things to their needed place, I experienced the grace of the privilege to care for them even while we began our relationship with them caring for me. They had sacrificed so much to live righteously and finally arrive in this country I call my own. Their belongings were so much less than mine. For they had left nearly everything behind in their harrowing journey to freedom. Wasn’t all my life grace, no matter its physical space?

Now, as I come to the present day and move about this literal winter, so much colder, I am desperate for more knowledge of this grace—the warmth of God.

My mind wanders yet with purpose to the very cold winters of my childhood when pipes froze, and old farmhouses were drafty. At times, we couldn’t pay for the oil to heat our home, so we cuddled close with blankets and space heaters. The warmth in our hearts, making it together, brought us all through.

Could I believe we could draw close to make it through this winter?

I remember, too, the years of steady winter in the hearts of my parents as they struggled deeply in their marriage. My knees rubbed raw as I knelt to pray for the restoration of their love. Years of winters came and went without change. But my heart’s hope saw winter give birth to spring like a persistent daffodil in their love renewed.

Could I have hope amid this winter, too?

My mind then travels through these past six years and the great, frosty winter which came. Years marked by the terrors of mental illness, including two hospital mental ward stays. Oh, how I wrestled in this journey as the whys came to the surface. Why would God allow me and those I love to suffer so? Yet, more than answers, in my great need, it has been the moment to moment dependence on the manifest heart of the God who heals which has sustained. I have never known a deeper grace than the one who is grace.

Could I see him who is grace in this winter, too?

My memories fade and awareness drifts back to today, now months into this transition. There is more winter here and coming. And while I heave a frigid sigh, I do the only thing I can. I remember.

For, yes, God is real in this winter too.

 

 

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Abigail Alleman is a lover of life and story. She has learned to see redemption, even in the darkest places. Through her journey with mental illness, she has seen hope arise when least expected. This resiliency as well as deeper understanding of the real trauma of life, have given her a compassion which informs her life as a wife, mother, author and minister to refugees. Her first book, ‘A Million Skies: Secure in God’s Strength When Your Mind Can’t Rest’ will be released March 15, 2022. She also shares her story in her ‘Messy Life Mighty Love’ Podcast. Connect with her at www.abigailalleman.com and Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Walk with Me

Walk with Me
by Allison Brown

Walk with me.
Walk with me and
notice…
notice the sound of the ocean waves. Notice the birds dancing in the shore break.
Notice the warmth of the sun that comforts your soul.
Notice children laughing, and loved ones holding hands.
Notice white feathers on the shore reminding you there is a higher vibration to exist.
Walk with me.

Walk with me.
Walk with me and
listen…
listen to the sounds.
Listen to your soul.
Listen to your inner knowings.
Listen as I whisper words of love to sustain you every day.
Listen to others.
Listen to their stories.
Listen with your whole body, mind, and soul.
Listen from a place where deep calls to deep.
Walk with me.

Walk with me.
Walk with me and
look…
open your eyes.
Look for the good.
Look for the light in you.
Look for the light in them.
Look with your hand over your heart in awe of my creation.
Look for joy.
Look for glimpses of my love.
Look for me every day.
I am here.
Walk with me.

Walk with me.
Walk with me and
embrace…
embrace the days your soul will cry.
Embrace the knowing that tears simply are your love pouring out, directly from the windows of
your soul.
Embrace your sorrow.
Embrace your anger.
Embrace all of the unanswered questions.
Embrace seasons of inner turmoil. Embrace the external chaos.
Embrace it all.
Walk with me.

Walk with me.
Walk with me and trust…
trust your heart.
Trust your body.
Trust your mind.
Trust Me.
Trust I am loving you every single day.
Trust you are enough.
Trust I am enough!
And when your soul feels like it is dying,
trust yourself enough to say those words that you have kept locked inside your soul for so long.
“I am not ok.” Say them out loud.
Trust and begin the journey of your return.
Trust I will carry you.
Walk with me.

Walk with me.
Walk with me from heaven to earth and back again into eternity.
Walk with me from your first breath to your last.
Walk with me and know there is a thin veil between these worlds.
Walk with me and find the truth each day at the center of your being.
Walk with me and bring heaven to earth if only for a moment in time.
Walk with me and know all the saints that go before you are singing Emmanuel – God is with
you.
Walk with me…
I see you.
I love you.
I know you.
Come, take my hand and
walk with me…

 

 

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Allison Brown is from Kitty Hawk, NC where she lives with her husband and three children. Being a mother is her most important work.  Allison is also the Director of Church Life at Kitty Hawk United Methodist Church.  Allison’s life motto is to “radiate love.” She believes each of us has a unique way of “Being” that is an expression of God that brings love to this world.  Allison is passionate about helping people discover and live out of their truest essence. Allison believes all true transformation begins and ends by learning to listen to your own inner spirit, God within.  Allison is certified in Spiritual Formation as well as  Spiritual Direction through Christian Formation and Direction Ministries in San Diego, CA.  She also received her BA in Psychology from the University of NC at Chapel HIll.  Allison also is a certified StrengthFinders coach through the Gallup Organization. Connect with her on Facebook and Instagram.

The Ultimate Sacrifice

The Ultimate Sacrifice
by Amy Remer

It was a cool September morning.  Dew covered the tips of the grass.  The house was dark and quiet.  Such a calm moment as I opened my eyes.  My husband was still asleep, as were our four children.  I just wanted to stay in that moment forever and not face the day that was in front of me.  But I had to.  It was happening whether I wanted it to or not.

I woke my husband up so we could get ready.  We didn’t say much, but small tears filled our eyes several times that morning.  We were scared of what was to come, but we knew it had to be done.  It had to be done to save my life.

The kids woke up and we said our goodbyes.  I have never held my kids as tightly as I did that morning.  It was the last time I would be able to hug them like that… and they knew it.  I could feel it deep in their souls.  The fear poured from their bodies into my heart as I held them closer and closer.  I reassured them that I would be fine, yet I had no idea if that was true. I kissed them goodbye and walked out the door – it was the last time they would see their mom “whole.”

We drove and drove to the hospital for what seemed like forever. This was a very familiar drive for us; we had made it many times over the last three years for numerous chemotherapy appointments, surgeries, radiation treatments, scans, and doctor’s appointments.  However, today the drive was different. Today, the drive represented the most drastic life-changing moment. My husband and I listened to our favorite songs.  We tried not to think about the next 12 hours but it was like an elephant in the backseat. ‘He is being so strong,’ I thought to myself as the hum of the road rang through my ears and the trees zoomed by.

After about an hour drive, we pulled into the hospital parking garage.  My husband put the car in park.  Then we froze. How in the world can someone walk herself into a hospital to get her entire arm cut off? Our bodies were heavy… we couldn’t move. We sat in that car for at least 15 minutes before mustering up the courage to walk in that hospital for my amputation surgery. It had to be done to save my life of this sarcoma I had been battling for over three years. I was choosing to trust in God, even when life seemed impossible.  I was choosing hope, even when all hope seemed lost. I was choosing life, even if it meant the ultimate sacrifice.

So in we went, hand-in-hand, and we never looked back. We pressed into our faith and stayed focused on this gift of life that we are given each day. That was over a year ago, and I thank God every single day that I am still alive and breathing. This life is short, and every day is a blessing.

 

 

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Amy Remer is a writer and speaker dedicated to sharing God’s faithfulness even in the toughest of times.  She has walked through the loss of a baby, a miscarriage, a child with special needs, cancer, an amputation of her arm, and the loss of her father.  Amy has been sharing her journey through social media and various speaking engagements.  She is in the process of writing her first book.  Amy resides in Swanton, Ohio, with her husband and their four children. Despite everything they’ve been through, it hasn’t stopped them from going on adventures and living life with no regrets! Connect with her on Facebook.